Monday, February 8, 2016

Concert Review: Bukeka Shoals at Unity Temple on the Plaza

The last thing the members of Wednesday's audience of about 125 at Unity Temple on the Plaza expected to hear was hip-hop.  Yet Bukeka Shoals began her appearance at Spirituality and All That Jazz with a funky song that featured a rap segment.

The vocalist, flautist, songwriter, actor and motivational speaker also performed pop, gospel, R&B and contemporary jazz.  Assisted by keyboardist Angela Ward (and Ward’s 13-year-old son on drums for a selection or two), Shoals was full of surprises.

The senior citizens in the audience forgave Shoals for her foray into hip-hop during lovely readings of “My Funny Valentine” and “Do Nothing till You Hear From Me” and cheerfully clapped along to a lively version of “Respect.”  Saxophonist Jim Mair unleashed his inner King Curtis while bassist James Albright evoked Duck Dunn on the R&B standard.

A rendition of Shoals’ original composition ”Be Happy” was pleasing, but the evening’s most memorable selection was an emotional a cappella interpretation of a gospel song.

The concert began with a rendition of bandleader Tim Whitmer’s “Player Piano.”  The opening tune exemplified the primary appeal of the monthly series- toe-tapping, smile-inducing jazz accentuated by melodic solos.

The core group of Whitmer, Mair, Albright and drummer J├╝rgen Welge has entertained at the monthly Spirituality and All That Jazz concerts for more than 22 years.  Shoals rightfully commended the series' “amazing tradition” and suggested that “we ought to be proud that we have something that brings people together from all walks of life.”

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Now's the Time: Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinmusire, one of the most exciting artists to emerge in the new millenium, will perform at the Blue Room on Thursday, February 18.  A tour schedule posted by Blue Note Records indicates that Akinmusire will joined by his longstanding band of pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown.  The quintet is featured in the embedded video.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*The Pitch previewed Deborah Brown’s appearance at the Blue Room.

*Mills Record Company featured Chris Hazelton’s latest single at its blog.

*Tweet o’ the Week: 435 Magazine- #reasonstolovekc : Our jazz scene rivals the #roaring20s @ Green Lady Lounge (photo)

*Comment o’ the Week: Vine Street Records- Interesting perspective. I would have to agree with the overall sentiment. You should check out James D. Conqueror an artist out of KC who is blending Jazz,Blues,Hip Hop. Kinda finding a way to bring jazz back to more commercial relevance. Regards, Dante'

*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated for February.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jazz Evasion

During a discussion of the use of jazz in television commercials to promote a variety of unrelated products, a musician once suggested to me that jazz is capable of selling everything but itself. 

I recently learned that the word “jazz” is likely to be expunged from the name of a prominent area summer festival as part of a rebranding campaign.  A mainstream jazz artist hasn’t headlined at the festival in years.  Even so, the explicit shunning of the word is foolhardy.  Although practitioners of the form are often relegated to the bottom of the bills, popular events including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival maintain “jazz” as part their names.

In New Orleans as in Kansas City, people like the concept of jazz even if they don’t necessarily want to listen to the music.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Now's the Time: Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell’s new album When You Wish Upon a Star will be released on Friday, January 29.  The groundbreaking guitarist will be joined by vocalist Petra Haden, violinist Eyvind Kang, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Kenny Wollesen in a performance in support of the new project at Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on February 21.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Confirmation: Weekly News & Notes

*Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner has been named as the new Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum.  A portion of the press release is posted below.  The editorial board of The Kansas City Star applauds the hiring.  Steve Kraske interviewed Kositany-Buckner for KCUR.

*Marcus Lewis is the subject of a lengthy profile by Joe Klopus.

*The Pitch notes the jazz bookings at Prohibition Hall.

*Joe Dimino’s recent Neon Jazz interviews include Matt Wilson and Harold Mabern.

*Tweet o’ the Week: Jermaine Reed- American Jazz Museum announced Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner as Executive Director today @americanjazzkc @repcleaver

*From a press release: The American Jazz Museum (AJM) announced today the appointment of Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner as Executive Director of the organization.  A seasoned nonprofit leader who has garnered numerous awards and recognition for her work, Kositany-Buckner accepts the position following a 25-year career with the Kansas City Public Library, where she rose from network administrator in the IT Department to Deputy Director… The announcement follows a comprehensive national search that included significant local stakeholder involvement and discussions with the leadership of some of the top music and African American cultural institutions in the U.S.

*From a press release: On Sunday, February 21, 2016, legendary jazz artists David Basse and Joe Cartwright will celebrate the release of their new CD Live at Pilgrim Chapel with a concert at Kansas City’s historic Pilgrim Chapel… If anyone embodies the sound and spirit of Kansas City, it’s Joe Cartwright and David Basse. Together and separately, the duo has become known over the past 40 years to represent a jazz musical tradition that began over 100 years ago... the recording would be simple- Joe on a keyboard and David’s vocals.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Album Review: Matt Hopper- First Love

Matt Hopper sounds like an old soul on his impressive debut album First Love.  The young Kansas City guitarist plays with the patience of a sage veteran who feels no need to prove himself.  Rather than peppering the project with flashy solos, Hopper emphasizes tasteful grooves.

Hopper is accompanied by two-thirds of OJT.  Organist Ken Lovern and drummer Kevin Frazee provide the same sort of prudent playing that’s heard at their frequent appearances as the unofficial house band of the Green Lady Lounge and on last year’s correspondingly conventional New Standards for the Green Lady album.

Hopper aligns himself with old-school guitarists like Kenny Burrell rather than modernists such as Bill Frisell on straight-ahead tracks like “Song For Wes” and “Darn That Dream.”

Even so, the album’s most distinctive song is one of the few selections that couldn’t be mistaken for something that was recorded fifty years ago.  Rather than paying tribute to past masters like Wes Montgomery, Hopper explores new terrain on the hauntingly beautiful “Set Your Fears Aside.” 

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)